The leader of a Brillion-based company is defending a decision to cut out unscheduled breaks at its manufacturing plant, following criticism about the impact the move is having on Muslim workers at the plant.
Ariens Company CEO Dan Ariens said the decision followed concerns about workers leaving production lines to pray outside of scheduled break times, which often forced those lines to halt operations or forced other employees to cover those duties. “We work as a team here, and when the team sees some are getting unscheduled breaks…it just doesn’t seem fair to the rest,” Ariens said during a press conference on Monday.
Those who follow the Islamic faith are required to pray at intervals throughout the day, including during set times of sunrise and sunset. The conflict has arisen because those times are constantly shifting throughout the year. The plant, which makes snow blowers and lawn mowers, employed about 53 Muslim employees at the time it told workers last week about the decision, and the policy being enforced would allow them to continue praying during the two regularly scheduled 10-minute breaks that take place each shift.
Ariens said many of the workers who were leaving their posts argued prayer should only take about five minutes, but he contends it actually takes much more time than that. Even at just five minutes, with dozens of employees leaving the line through a year, he estimated it would cost the company nearly $1 million annually to honor the request.
Some of the plant’s Muslim workers have reportedly agreed to the new policy. Ariens said he completely respects their faith and beliefs, and he would understand if the others choose not to continue to work for them.
Mike Kemmeter at affiliate WHBY contributed to this report.